OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) - A new program is offering up a second-chance at success for inmates in area prisons. At the same time, it's filling a void in the local workforce.
Jeffery Cox isn't your typical college student. He's currently serving a two-year sentence in the Oshkosh Correctional Facility. But he is using that time wisely. Cox is part of a first-of-its-kind class for inmates. They're learning machine manufacturing in this mobile unit.
"In order to get a job, you have to have some type of experience," Cox explained. "I have none So to prepare myself for when I get released, why not start here."
The $400,000 mobile classroom is a joint partnership between Lakeshore Technical College, Bay Area Workforce Development Board and the Department of Corrections. The goal is to give inmates the skills they need to succeed and thrive after they're released. And in northeast Wisconsin, those skills are in manufacturing.
"If we look at our workforce, about one out of four people work in the manufacturing sector in northeast Wisconsin," explained Jim Golembeski, Executive Director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board. "It's also the highest paying sector in northeast Wisconsin and the demand for skilled workers is growing and growing and growing."
Besides starting salaries between $15 and $20 an hour, manufacturing is also a career accepting of people with criminal records.
"They're motivated to change," explained Deputy Warden Steve Wierenga. "They take what we give them. They're taking advantage of the opportunities that are provided by the department to better themselves so they can be productive members of society."
Eight students are part of a six week course. They'll earn six college credits and receive a certificate in machine production.
Jeffery Cox is set to be released in April. He calls the course a chance for a better life.
"I have to look towards the future," he added. "Especially being in a place like this, it hurts. A prison record, so if you have something like this to help you along, that's always good."
After six weeks here in Oshkosh, the mobile manufacturing unit is already scheduled to go to two other prisons in Wisconsin.